‘Helping Hands’ by Alec Peever (2011)
photo by Snapshooter46 from Foter.com
Advocacy is part of JRS’ threefold mission, along with accompaniment and service. Here is a short reflection that shares some of the important characteristics of “Ignatian” advocacy, that staff member Kate has found helpful as presented by Jesuit Frank Turner SJ.
In the same way that we treat each refugee who comes to JRS with dignity and respect, our advocacy work is shaped by values that are the foundation for our whole mission. When engaging policy or decision-makers, we try to start with an attitude that assumes acceptance of the other person, even if we do not accept their position, so our dialogue retains the relationship whilst raising specific concerns. It is too easy to reject or be dismissive of someone else who is working in government or a public service.
In a similar way, a Jesuit approach to advocacy looks at both rescue of individuals who are suffering and the structure of injustice within society as a whole, thereby seeking a common good. We are not lobbying for our own interests, and want to show that a solution, e.g. for us as the host community is not possible without dignity for all. And when speaking about the perspective of those who might be “oppressed” or “excluded”, we do not label or objectify and where possible we always promote refugees themselves to speak. If it is only safe for us do so, we speak out only where we are connected through our service, so our advocacy is action based, not in the form of intellectual positions.
We hope that our dialogue with decision-makers and fellow campaigners comes with an openness – almost a spiritual attitude – that recognises that truth and goodness come from unexpected places. To do this, we try to create spaces for encounter and mutual meeting, rooted in community, honesty and information sharing. This comes with wisdom and clarity of message. So, at JRS, we try to ensure that our advocacy is both prophetic and pragmatic, holding up principles and seeking practical improvements in lives of those we are working on behalf, moving towards right relationship and reconciliation for refugees and all of us.